A video of an enormous Burmese python crossing the street in Florida’s Everglades National Park went viral last week.
The striking footage caught the attention of many park enthusiasts, including snake experts who offered new insights into the snake’s identity.
The incident was caught on camera by Kymberly Strempack Clark, who has since shared the footage to her Instagram page, @kym_clark. In the video, the enormous snake can be seen slithering across a tarmac road while Clark’s GPS tells her to “proceed to the route.”
“I have never seen a snake this large before in the wild, especially a python,” Clark previously told Newsweek.
Clark and her two friends, Lu Behrens and Tippy Prescott, said that the python had been lying across the road as they drove towards it.
“We weren’t sure what it was at first, then we realized it was a Python because it was moving ever so slightly,” Behrens told Newsweek. “Once we drove up and pulled over, the Python turned around and headed back to the side of the road, away from us.”
Behrens measured the python using a mobile phone app, which estimated it to be around 15.2 feet. However, snake hunter Luis Garbayo believes it may actually have been larger.
“I measured the road at 21 feet,” Garbayo told Newsweek. “The snake is folded in half and at an angle, with kinks and curves. If it was perfectly straight…she for sure can almost reach the white line. From the middle of the road to the white line is 10.5 feet.”
From these calculations, Garbayo estimates that the snake must be between 8.5 to 9 feet long when folded in half, reaching around 18 feet when stretched out.
It’s impossible to verify that, but Prescott told Newsweek that, when it had unfolded itself, the snake was too long to fit in a single shot: “With my 150-300mm lens, I couldn’t get the whole thing in frame.”
The python’s enormous size suggests that it’s a female, as male pythons tend to grow to only about 14 feet. Prescott also said that a snake expert had told them that this female was “loaded with eggs” based on the size of her head relative to the rest of her body, and the lumpy shape of her body.
Burmese pythons tend to mate between December and April. The females will gestate their eggs for around 60 to 90 days and lay them in the late spring. The University of Florida has estimated that females typically carry around 36 eggs in a single clutch, but last June an 18-foot female was found with 122.
Burmese pythons are one of the largest species of snakes in the world and are native to Southeast Asia. While they are classed as vulnerable to extinction in their native habitat by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, they are an invasive species in Florida and are considered a threat to native wildlife.
Established populations of the snakes, thought to have been initially escaped or released pets, were first reported in Florida in 2000. The snakes have few predators because of their enormous size and are known to prey on native species—including those that may be endangered or threatened with extinction—and to compete with these animals for food.
Should you ever see a Burmese python in the wild Florida, the state Wildlife Commission says it should be informed immediately. Behrens said that, as soon as the python had slithered away, they called the WFC and emailed them a pinpoint on the map to help locate the snake.
Do you have an animal or nature story to share with Newsweek? Do you have a question about snakes? Let us know via email@example.com.